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Rick Wakeman - Criminal Record CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 297 ratings

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5 stars It's now 1977, and Rick Wakeman has rejoined Yes and was recording "Going for the One" with them, but he also was working on a new idea for a solo album. Instead of working on them both, he waited for "Going for the One" to be released before diving in to a new album for A&M Records. While visiting a pub together with Chris Squire, Wakeman mentioned he was considering a new loosely-based concept album about criminality and that he wanted to go a different route with this one. He wanted it to be more of a "band" album than a large scale album and that, instead of creating an album where all the parts are recorded and then he fits in all of the keyboard parts around the music that he wanted to record his parts first and let the other instruments fill in later. Bingo! Rick actually hit his biggest issue right on the nose with this one and it is evidenced in the album. This was a return to how he recorded "Six Wives of Henry VIII" and in my opinion, this was the smartest thing he could have done. Six Wives was probably Wakeman's best solo album up to this date, and "Criminal Record" would reflect that focus with what I consider another one of Wakeman's best solo albums.

Both Squire and Alan White would play on this new record on side 1. He told them just to record whatever they wanted on top of his keyboard parts which were already laid down and he stayed away from the studio when they played their parts. The record company hated the record because it was not what they expected. But, fortunately, they released it and it would end up charting in the UK, the US, Norway and Australia. Frank Ricotti was also on board to record percussion on the same three songs as Squire and White and also on "Judas Iscariot". A comedian, Bill Oddie recorded a vocal section for the song "The Breathalyser" and Wakeman played everything else.

This album, to me, is the warmest and most focused album of all of Wakeman's album, and in my opinion, is underrated. It seems to be forgotten as it isn't a major concept with full orchestra's, choirs and over-the-top production. It seems a lot more personal and heartfelt. "Statue of Justice", "Crime of Passion" and "Chamber of Horrors" are excellent tracks each with their own personalities, and they sound like a full band with a lot of keyboard action going on, which is exactly what Wakeman wanted. In fact, it's hard to tell that the parts were recorded separately because the sound is so tight. Even as good as this side is, the two best tracks are on side two. "Birdman of Alcatraz" is mostly a piano solo with some effects and such. This is the most beautiful track Wakeman that I have ever heard from Wakeman as his piano just flows along so seamlessly. I don't know if there are separate layers, I tend to suspect there are a few places that are recorded separately because you would have to have four hands to play it all so smoothly. The arpeggios flow around the main melody so wonderfully that it can take your breath away.

"Judas Iscariot" is the other jewel on the album, and at plus 12 minutes, also the longest. This is Rick's real masterwork. The main instrument throughout this piece is the church organ, which is everything you want an organ-led instrument to sound like. Absolutely stunning, moving and dramatic all at the same time. Wakeman also features the Moog synthesizer which fits in so well with the music. Various other synths are used sparingly, but percussion is used and the Ars Laeta Choir is also utilized. Everything just fits together so well on this, which is more than one can say on a consistent basis with Rick's more popular and bombastic works. It does no justice to try to describe this amazing track, it must be heard to be believed. If you only hear one thing by Wakeman, you should make it this track.

This is one album that I enjoy from beginning to end from Wakeman (except for the short, silly vocal part on "The Breathalyser") and one that I would easily rate with 5 stars. Why this one seems to get passed on in comparison with his more popular works is beyond me. This one is just seems more like what a solo album should sound like, emphasis on the solo artist with great support from guest musicians. In most of his earlier albums, you feel like the star is the orchestra and other performers and that the keyboards are almost there as a support instrument. Not on this album, however. To me, it is his personal masterpiece.

TCat | 5/5 |


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